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2006 Honda Ridgeline Road Test

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Honda’s innovative pickup truck

LA JOLLA, Calif. Aside from cars, the list of products bearing the Honda name is staggering: Weed whackers, generators, lawn mowers, pumps, personal watercraft, outboard motors, snowblowers, motorcycles and ATVs, too.

Whats not on the list? A pickup truck. But not for long. Hondas Ridgeline sport-utility truck goes on sale in March. Honda has not set final prices, but it expects the truck to range from $28,000 to $32,000. It will come in RT, RTS and RTL models. A moonroof and navigation system will be options on the RTL.

The Ridgeline was designed to look as if it was carved from a solid steel billet. The cab and fenders flow together in one piece.

Hondas pickup is unique, which shouldnt be surprising because Honda has a reputation for innovation. The four-door Ridgeline is not a typical body-on-frame pickup with a V-8 engine and rear-wheel drive. Instead, it has a 3.5-liter, 255-horsepower V-6, all-wheel drive, fully independent suspension and a 5-foot composite bed. The bed is 6 feet long when the tailgate is down.

Category:$28,000 to $35.000 mid size Pickup Truck
Who should buy this car:Someone looking for a Crew Cab pickup with a moderately sized bed and comfortable appointments
Comparable models in this class:Chevrolet Silverado, Ford F150, GMC Sierra, Dodge Ram, Nissan Titan, Toyota Tundra

It is built on a unibody chassis similar to the Pilot SUV, but welding on a fully boxed frame that has a reinforced floor pan. That gives it strength for towing a 5,000-pound trailer or hauling a half-ton load. The frame also keeps the body structure from flexing. The Ridgeline feels solid and secure with a load, when towing or bouncing through off-road ruts.

To prove that point, Honda invited auto writers to drive the Ridgeline in a variety of situations. It did an impressive job of towing a 5,000-pound trailer around a course on a deserted parking lot. We slalomed the Ridgeline and its competitors through turns, each truck loaded with more than 1,000 pounds of landscaping rocks. On a rural off-road course, we climbed steep, slippery slopes and splashed through mudholes. The Ridgeline acquitted itself extremely well in every situation.

Around town and on the highway, the Ridgeline feels like an SUV. Wind and road noise are commendably low. It is easy to handle, and wheels into parking spaces like a car.

Standard equipment includes side-curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, tilt wheel, six-speaker audio system with CD player, power windows and keyless entry. Options include a moonroof, XM satellite radio and a voice-activated navigation system that also lists restaurants according to the Zagat Survey.

Think of the Ridgeline as an urban pickup. Conceptually, it has more in common with trucks such as the Chevrolet Avalanche and Ford Explorer Sport Trac. It is designed to haul dirt bikes, bicycles and ATVs. It can tow boats or campers. Sheets of plywood will fit flat between the wheelhouses in the bed. The beds indentations are sized to accommodate dirt-bike tires. The bed has built-in tie-downs and four flush lights for nighttime loading. Honda will offer an extensive list of accessories, such as a bed extender and racks for motorcycles.

Urban moms will like the Ridgeline because it drives, parks and handles like an SUV.

Ridgeline has two things no other pickup does. A trunk, and a two-way tailgate. Both items are bound to be copied by other truck makers. Pulling down the tailgate extends the bed floor to 75 inches. Swinging it from the side makes it easy to access the lockable, weatherproof trunk that is under the rearmost portion of the bed floor. The trunk is big enough to hold three golf bags. It can be filled with ice and used as a giant cooler (theres a drain plug in the floor), or it will hold a baby stroller.

The split-folding back seat is not only big enough for adults to ride comfortably, it also provides interior storage when it is folded up. A mountain bike will fit inside, and an underseat storage area is large enough for a golf bag.

Ridgeline uses the same all-wheel-drive system as the Honda Pilot and Acura MDX. The system operates as front-wheel drive most of the time, but transfers power to the rear wheels as needed. The system can be locked into four-wheel mode for maximum traction with a button on the dash. Traction control, antilock brakes and vehicle stability control are standard

Inside, the Ridgelines cabin is designed for comfort and convenience. Bright silver door pulls look gaudy but provide a firm place to grip. The center console has built-in cup holders but it can also be configured to hold a variety of objects and accessories.

Honda expects to sell about 50,000 pickups in the first year. They are built in Alliston, Ontario, Canada.

Click here for more pictures of the Ridgeline

Specifications

Engine Type3.5L SOHC 24 Valve V6 with Variable Valve Timing
Horsepower255 hp @ 5750 RPM
Torque252 ft-lbs. @ 4500 RPM
Fuel RecommendedRegular Unleaded.
Transmission5-speed Electronically Controlled Automatic
Drive Typefull time 4WD with Rear Locking Differential
Tires – StandardP245/65SR17 all season tires
Overall Length206.8
Wheelbase122.0″
Width76.3
Turning Diameter42.6 ft Curb to Curb
Curb Weight4503 lbs.
Fuel Tank22 Gals.
Miles Per GallonEPA city 16 , hwy 21.
Towing Capacity5,000 lbs.
Base Price$27,700  + Destination charge of $515

2006 Honda Ridgeline Standard Equipment
Standard Equipment(Partial list)
All Models

RTS also Includes

RTL also Includes

Major Available Options
(Only for RTL)

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Author

Tom Strongman

Automotive Expert

Tom Strongman began writing about automobiles for The Kansas City Star 20 years ago. He was the full-time Automotive Editor from 1991 to 2001. Now he is a Contributing Editor who works on contract for the paper. His syndicated column also appears in The St. Louis Suburban Journals and The Columbus Dispatch. He writes a bi-monthly column for AAA's Home and Away Magazine. Strongman's "Behind the Wheel" segment airs weekly on KSHB Channel 41 in Kansas City.

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